31 JANUARY 2024


The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS", if you will. To purchase an album, simply click on one of the web site retail outlets given in the "AVAILABILITY" table under the write-up.

The album cover may not always appear.
Alfano, F.: Complete String Quartets (Nos. 1, 2 & 3); DMMM Quartet [Naxos]
Composer-pianist Franco Alfano (1875-1954) was born in the Posillipo residential quarter of Naples, Italy, to an affluent family. As a sixteen-year-old (1891) he studied piano, harmony and composition at the nearby Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella.

Upon getting his degree in 1895, young Franco furthered his musical education in Germany at the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig, where one of his instructors was renowned pianist-composer Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902). Then after graduating in 1898, he toured Russia as a concert pianist.

Not long thereafter, Franco returned to Italy in hopes of succeeding with his operas. However, that was a tall order with such greats as Verdi (1813-1901), Leoncavallo (1857-1919) and Puccini (1858-1924) holding forth. By the way, the latter's final masterpiece Turandot of 1924 was left unfinished at the time of his death, and Alfano would complete the music for it in 1926.

But returning to the time at hand, Franco's operatic endeavors met with little success. Consequently, it's not surprising that with his mother being French, he had an affinity for France, and around 1902 moved to Paris for employment. While there he saw a theatrical production of Russian author Leo Tolstoy's (1828-1910) novel Resurrection (1899). It was the inspiration for his opera Risurrezione of 1904, which premiered that same year in Turin and became highly successful.

This marked the turning point in his musical career, and he returned to Italy, where he'd die in Sanremo, some 500 miles northeast of his hometown. That said, Alfano left a significant body of works across all genres, fourteen being operas.

Here we're treated to the world premiere recordings of all his string quartets. These three-movement works were written during the years bracketed by the beginning of World War I (WWI, 1914-18) and end of World War II (WWII, 1939-45).

Alfano's String Quartet No. 1 in D major (1914-18, rev. 1924) has a "Vivacissimo (Extremely lively)" marked first movement [T-1] that starts with a stormy, strident idea [00:01]. This undergoes several treatments that range from wistful [02:31] to compassionate [03:03], antsy [04:13], longing [05:20] and folksong-like [05:17]. Then a whimsical one [08:19] ends the movement on a positive note.

The next "Calmo (Calm)" one [T-2] has a moving, reverential opening theme that's the subject of an anguished elegy. This would seem to honor the death of Alfano's son who served with the Italian army and was killed in WWI. Moreover, it has a "poco più animato (little more animated)" closing section [09:10] that's to be played "como una nenia popolare (like a traditional lament)". There's also an arresting, shot-like, snap pizzicato note [10:44].

However, the pace quickens with the closing third movement [T-3]. Here a commanding, "Largo (Slow)" preface [00:00] is followed by a willful number (WN) [00:18] that begins the "Allegro deciso (Fast with determination)" marked remaining passages.

Subsequently WN parents a variety of developmental episodes. These include fickle [01:17], proud [02:44], martial [04:01], flighty [04:24], songful [05:50], angelic [06:42], complacent [07:39] as well as vivacious [10:01] ones. Then a spirited, WN-based coda [10:41] ends the work confidently on a happy note.

The String Quartet No. 2 in C major (1925-26) is marked "In Tre Tempi Collegati", which means its three movements are to be played without a pause, i.e., attacca. Alfano dedicated it to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), who at the time was also venerated by the likes of Puccini (1858-1924), Mascagni (1863-1945) and Stravinsky (1882-1971). Incidentally, this was first performed during 1927 at Il Duce's official residence, which was the Villa Torlonia in Rome -- shades of Richard Wagner's (1813-1883) Siegfried Idyll (WWV103, 1870).

Be that as it may, the "Largo assai (Very slow)" first movement [T-4] begins with a reverent theme [00:00] that's explored and followed by a couple of more cheerful episodes [01:17, 02:22]. Then there's an aria-like section [02:33] with Slavic as well as Romani overtones. After that reminiscences of the opening measures appear [05:07] and become rather nostalgic.

But the latter bridge [07:46] into an "Allegretto semplice come una canzoncina per bimbi) (Moderately fast and like a children's song)" second movement [T-5]. It's as billed and features a delightful nursery-rhyme-like ditty [00:00] that's the subject of six variations. The first five are respectively mischievous [00:26], innocent [00:57], playful [01:57], bold [02:38] and retiring [03:09].

Then a somewhat lachrymose sixth [03:29] conjoins the final "Molto allegro (Very fast)" movement [T-6]. This is a Slavic, folkdance-like, virtuosic undertaking that opens with a frantic, contrapuntally spiced, rustic ditty (RD) [00:00].

RD is followed by some captivating moments [01:25, 01:35, 01:45, 02:48] and "Molto vivace (Very vivacious)", scurrying passages [03:47], which give way to erratic ones [04:37]. The latter are succeeded by suggestions of RD [06:14], which become increasingly frenetic, but suddenly quit. Then an exuberant, chorale-like version of RD [08:18] is food for some profound passages [09:01] that end the work optimistically.

Alfano's String Quartet No. 3 in G minor (1944-45) was written not long after his wife's death (1943), and consequently the "Largo (Slow)" first movement [T-7] is a moving tribute to her. More specifically, it's pervaded by a gloomy, opening theme [00:00] that begins a pining episode.

Subsequently, there's a lovely, radiant section [03:39] having vibrant segments [05:07, 06:57], which is followed by darker passages [07:35]. Then the latter make a yearning transition into calmer, more resigned ones [10:56], which end things with a feeling of tranquil resignation.

The middle, "Allegretto (Moderately fast)" movement [T-8] brings to mind one of those folkdances from Southeastern Europe. It's a Phrygian as well as Aeolian modally tinted number, where animated outer sections [00:00, 05:33] surround a more contemplative one [02:47-05:32], and close the movement full circle.

Then there's an "Allegro (Fast)" third [T-9]. This has an attention-getting preface [00:00] succeeded by a commanding march theme [00:11], which is the subject for several variations. The first range from fickle [00:59] to amorous [02:19], busy [02:40] as well as fugally flighty [03:39. Then a proud one [05:12] evokes thoughts of an ancient Roman triumph. But this suddenly stops, and a subdued variation [05:53] followed by a heroic one [06:58] end the quartet and disc elatedly.

These performances are by Elmira Darvarova (violin I), Mary Ann Mumm (violin II), Craig Mumm (viola) and Samuel Magill (cello), whom we'll collectively refer to as the "DMMM Quartet". That said, the DMMM delivers technically accomplished, enthusiastic accounts of three chamber works that in lesser hands would most likely come off as more ordinary fare.

The recordings were made 21-23 September 2022 by Oktaven Audio in their Mount Vernon, New York studio. They present a robust sonic image of the DMMM with the instruments positioned from left to right in order of increasing size. The string tone is good; however, this romantic chamber music would have been even more appealing in a concert venue.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P240131)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Enna: Violin Concerto, Symphony No. 2; Agafia/Gustafsson/Bogotá PO [Dacapo]
On the basis of his surname, it would be hard to guess that August Enna (1859-1939) was a Danish composer. In point of fact, his paternal grandfather was a soldier from Enna, Sicily, who moved to Denmark. August got his first musical training in Copenhagen around age seventeen, and would go on to work as a barroom pianist there. Then in 1881 he began conducting various Danish theater-company orchestras in the Baltic area.

By that time, he was also writing music, which occasionally has a hint of sunny Italy in line with his heritage. The year 1886 saw him complete the first of his two symphonies, which is unfortunately now lost. However, it brought him to the attention of Niels Gade (1817-1890), who was then Denmark's leading musical figure.

Consequently, he looked at several of Enna's scores, and wrote a laudatory letter that got him Denmark's most prestigious music prize. This allowed young August to devote himself entirely to composition, and in that regard much of his music is operatic. However, he also left some brilliantly scored orchestral works, two of which fill out this recent Dacapo release.

The first of these is his Violin Concerto in D major of 1896. It's one of this composer's most successful nonoperatic creations, and in the usual three movements. The "Moderato (Moderate)" opener [T-1] has a gorgeous orchestral preface [00:01] with a lovely, lyrical theme (LL) [00:03]. Then LL is picked up by the soloist [00:50] and explored, thereby giving way to a developmental episode [03:08] containing virtuosic violin passages [04:18-05:10].

Subsequently, there's a pause and the orchestra returns playing a songful serenade [05:11], after which the violinist makes a somewhat wistful reappearance [05:51] and launches into an ardent cadenza [06:48]. This is cause for a spirited return of the tutti [07:30] and romantic passages for all [07:45] with hints of LL. But the foregoing wane [08:42] into some fiddle fireworks [09:17] having an enthusiastic accompaniment that brings the movement to a comely conclusion.

Enna shows his operatic proclivities in the next "Andante (Flowing)" one [T-2]. To wit, this opens dramatically with the orchestra playing the movement's main theme (MT) [00:00], which is the first part of the melody for that renowned aria, Vesti la giubba, in Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo's (1857-1919) opera Pagliacci (1892). And soon the soloist appears [00:34], thereby engaging in a delicate, MT-based discourse with the tutti.

Then there's a dramatic pause followed by passionate passages [07:39]. These gives way to sorrowful, violin-dominated ones [08:14] that become more optimistic. However, they're succeeded by MT-reminiscent thoughts [10:38] that end the movement on a sorrowful note.

The "Allegro scherzando (Fast and playful)" third [T-3] is as advertised. It has an ebullient orchestral introduction [00:00] hinting at a frolicsome number (FN) soon played by the soloist [00:22]. This is explored and becomes the subject of a pensive number (PN) featuring the violin [01:35]. Then remembrances of FN [03:33] are followed by PN-related ones [05:36]. These become impassioned and bridge back into FN-based passages that conclude the work with a big 🙂.

Scored for a large orchestra, the Symphony No. 2 in E major of 1907 is a late-romantic extravaganza in four movements. The first one [T-4] has a "Lento (Slow)" introduction that's a moving thematic nexus (MN) [00:00]. It lays the ground work for the "Allegro moderato (Moderately fast)" remaining portion [01:54], which features a frolicsome ditty (FD) [02:07].

FD is then developmentally explored [02:47] and followed by reminders of MN [05:17]. These evoke the joyous return of FD [06:52], but this wanes into MN-tinged passages [08:52]. However, FD makes an increasingly triumphant comeback [09:31], thereby ending the movement with another of those big 🙂s.

The succeeding "Andante lento espressivo (Slowly flowing and expressive)" one [T-5] is a heartfelt outpouring that shows the influence of German composer Richard Wagner's music. In that regard, during the early 1890s Enna had spent six months studying the score for Der Ring des Nibelungen (WWV 86, 1848-74).

This begins with a warm theme [00:01], which seems distantly related to MN. It's the subject of a lovely episode that becomes increasingly passionate. Then there's a dramatic pause, and memories of the movement's opening measures with some FD-spicing [05:09] bring things to a peaceful conclusion.

Subsequently, we get an "Allegretto scherzando (Lively and playful)" one [T-6] with antsy, fugally flavored outer sections [00:00, 03:00]. These surround an amorous, waltzlike midriff [01:49-02:59] and end the movement full circle.

The "Allegro (Fast)" Finale [T-7] has a pensive, two-part preface [00:00, 00:41] hinting at what's to come. Then there's an FD-reminiscent number [01:11], which turns very valiant (FV) [02:17] and undergoes a dramatic, developmental exploration [02:48]. All this calls up MN-like thoughts [04:38], which intensify, but suddenly give way to a long pause [06:04].

After that, flowing recollections of MN [06:08] adjoin some frivolous, FD-like passages [08:01]. Then increasingly triumphant memories of FV [08:30] and the return of FD [09:19] parent a triumphant episode. This has a magnificent, organ-enhanced coda [11:24] that ends the work and disc triumphantly.

Danish violinist Anna Agafia (aka Anna Afagia Egholm, b. 1996) makes her CLOFO debut here, and a strong case for her fellow countryman's Concerto [T-1 thru 3]. She receives superb support from the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra (Bogotá PO) under their Music Director, Swedish Conductor Joachim Gustaffson (b. 1967). Then Maestro Gustaffson and his superb musicians go on to give us an outstanding account of Enna's Symphony [T-4 thru 7].

These recordings took place 26-29 September 2022 at the Teatro Taller Filharmónica Hall in Bogotá, Columbia. They project a suitably sized sonic image in spacious surroundings, with Miss Agafia centered, and her violin well captured as well as balanced against the orchestra. The instrumental timbre is characterized by acceptable highs, pleasant mids and clean bass. That said, this release falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating, but the wonderful music-making here makes it highly recommendable.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P240130)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Farrenc: Piano Trios 2 & 4, Variations concertantes... (pno & vc), Sonata No. 1 (pno & vn); Linos En [CPO]
Some of French composer Louise Farrenc's (1804-1875) chamber music was featured here three years ago (see 31 October 2021), and here's more of the same from the enterprising CPO label. This time around we get four works played by members of the Linos Ensemble.

Proceeding chronologically, the earliest piece is her "Variations Concertante sur une mélodie suisse (Concert Variations on a Swiss Theme)" for piano and violincello (Op. 20) [T-4] that was probably written around 1830. This begins with an "Andante maestoso (Slow and majestic)" marked "Introduzione (Introduction)" [00:00], which hints at a charming "Andante (Slow)" melody (CA) that soon appears [01:08], and seems to be Mme Farrenc's own take on some Swiss folksong she must have heard.

Subsequently, CA undergoes five variational treatments, the first two being "Più mosso (More lively)" capricious ones [02:09 & 03:01]. And after those, there's a "Brillante (Bright)", flashy third [03:49] as well as an "Andante sostenuto (Slow and sustained)", amorous fourth [04:41]. Then Louise serves up a "Vivace (Fast)" fifth [06:56], which is labelled "Finale", and closes the work in bravura fashion.

Moving ahead some fourteen years to 1844, there's the Trio No. 2 in D minor for Piano, Violin and Violincello (Op. 34). It's in three movements, and the first [T-1] has an "Andante (Slow)", pensive introduction [00:01] somewhat similar to the opening of Mozart's (1756-1791) Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor (K.466, 1785).

This hints at a subsequent, agitated idea [01:14], which begins the "Allegro (Fast)", sonata-form-like remainder of the movement, and is soon followed by a related songlike melody [02:20]. Then both thoughts undergo an extended, engaging development [03:19], and make a rousing, recapitulative return [09:14] that concludes the movement in thrilling fashion.

The next "Tema con variazioni (Theme with variations)" [T-2] opens with a slow, melancholy preface [00:01]. It sets the stage for a comely melody [00:25] that's the subject of six variational treatments. The first five are sequentially spirited [01:38], chanson-like [02:33], playful [03:29], meditative [04:46] and busy [06:07]. Then a rather coquettish sixth [07:13] ends the movement delicately.

It's followed by an "Allegro (Fast)", restless "Rondo" [T-3]. This features a recurrent, scurrying ditty [00:00, 01:19, 03:17, 04:41, 05:16] as well as a related amorous tune [01:44, 04:28, 04:58], which chase each other about and bring the trio to a thrilling conclusion.

The year 1848 saw Louise write the first of three sonatas for piano with another stringed instrument, the one here being her Sonata No. 1 in C minor for piano and violin (Op. 37). A three-movement work, the opener [T-9] has a "Largo (Slow)" introduction [00:02], which hints at a captivating melody that soon appears [01:15].

This starts the "Allegro (Fast)" remaining, sonata-form passages and is followed by a related, tender idea [01:56]. These are food for a rousing development [03:08], hearty recapitulation [04:45] and moving coda [06:05] that ends the movement tranquilly.

The "Poco adagio (Somewhat slow)" second [T-10] begins with a lovely, wistful idea [00:00]. It undergoes a somewhat restless treatment [01:58], and then a lullaby-like one [03:44] brings things to a gentle conclusion.

Its "Allegro (Fast)", mercurial "Finale" [T-11] is a rondo. This has a fickle, ritornello number [00:00, 01:33, 03:39, 04:50] as well as related, intervening, sentimental ones [00:38, 02:12, 03:55], and concludes the work in a blaze of virtuosic glory.

During 1954-56, Farrenc penned her Trio No. 4 in E minor for Piano, Flute and Violincello (Op. 45). The first of its four movements is an "Allegro deciso (Fast with determination)" marked sonata-form one [T-5]. This begins with a stern preface [00:00] followed by a yearning melody (YM) [00:12] and charming, related thought [01:11]. Then these ideas are repeated [02:34], and become the material for a cogent development [04:46] and recapitulation [06:45] with a YM-based coda [09:02] that ends things full circle.

The "Andante (Slow)", theme-and-variations second [T-6] has an opening main subject that's a folksong-like melody [00:00]. This undergoes several variational treatments, the first ranging from melancholy [01:08] to militant [01:40], confident [02:12] and airy [02:36]. Then a nostalgic, closing one [03:42] simply fades away.

But the pace quickens with the next "Vivace (Spirited)" Scherzo [T-7], where there's plenty of fancy "flutework". It has effervescent sections [00:00, 03:05] alternating with tender ones [01:39, 04:02], and ends with a cadential hint [04:42] of the movement's opening.

After that, we get a "Presto (Very fast)", rondo "Finale" [T-8]. This has a flighty ritornello tune [00:00, 00:49, 01:53, 03:30, 04:41, 05:05] interspersed with some related, cantabile ones [01:21, 02:20, 04:17, 04:54], and it concludes the work joyfully.

These performances are by members of the Linos Ensemble, which began championing Farrenc's music on CPO back in 1993 (see CPO 999 194-2 and 777 256-2). More specifically, the musicians here include pianist Konstanze Eickhorst (b. 1961), violinist Winfried Rademacher (b. 1955), cellist Mario Blaumer (b. 1958) and flautist Kersten McCall (b. 1973). They make a strong case for another four of this lady's chamber works.

A coproduction of CPO and Deutschlandfunk Kultur (DLFK), the recordings were made 24-27 January 2022 in DLFK's Kammermusiksaal (Chamber Music Hall), Berlin. They present an appropriately sized sonic image in warm, accommodating surroundings with the artists placed center stage, well captured and balanced against one another. The sound is about as good as it gets on conventional discs.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y240129)


The album cover may not always appear.
Leiviskä, H.: Piano Concerto, Symphony No. 1; Triendl/Rasilainen/StaWeimar [Hänssler]
With this release we welcome a new composer to these pages, namely Helvi Lemmikki Leiviskä (1902-1982). She was born in Helsinki, Finland and studied with Erkki Melartin (1875-1937; see 31 July 2016) at what's now known as the Sibelius Academy.

Helvi graduated in 1927 with a degree in composition, and briefly furthered her music education in Vienna with some orchestration coursework. But then she returned to Helsinki and studied with Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947) at her old alma mater.

This talented young lady would spend the rest of her life in that city, during which she taught school, was a librarian at the Sibelius Academy, and started composing in 1935. That said, Leiviskä left a small body of works across several genres. Nine are in the orchestral category, and a couple of those are featured on this enterprising, two-disc Hänssler album, both being world premiere recordings.

The Piano Concerto in D minor (Op. 7) of 1931-35 had a troubled history, and we're lucky to have what's here (see the somewhat confusing album notes). In three movements, the first [D-1, T-1] begins "Allegro ma non troppo (Lively but not too fast)" with a subdued, timpani-reinforced pedal point for the lower strings [00:03].

Then the soloist plays a somber theme (S1) [00:09] that's gradually picked up by the orchestra [00:49] and undergoes an increasingly agitated "Allegro (Fast)" exploration by all [00:50]. This transitions [02:02] into a more lyrical idea (L1) [05:40], which has virtuosic piano moments and calls up an elated, S1-based episode [10:07]. However, the latter slowly ebbs into tranquil, S1-L1-based afterthoughts [13:26] that end the movement peacefully.

After that, a "Vivace (Spirited)" one [D-1, T-2] begins with a mercurial introduction [00:00] hinting at a flighty number soon played by the soloist [00:41]. The latter is repeated (01:05) and followed by an L1-related, reverent thought [01:24]. Then both ideas are the subjects for several treatments. These range from vivacious [02:25] to stately [04:21], impish [06:55], pensive [08:47], forceful [09:33], commanding [10:33] and wistful [11:49].

The latter is succeeded by a brief pause and the attacca entrance of a closing "Fuga (Fugue)" movement [D-1, T-3]. It has an "Andantino ma tranquillo (Flowing but calm)" opening [00:00], where the orchestra plays our old friend L1. Then the soloist picks up on this [01:11], and the music becomes increasingly dramatic, waxing into a "Maestoso (Majestic)" episode [06:23]. It adjoins an "Andante cantabile (Flowing and songlike)" one [09:10] with an L1-based coda [14:42], which ends the work exultantly.

The Symphony No. 1 in B♭ major (Op. 23; 1947) has the usual four movement. The first [D-2, T-1] begins "Allegro moderato (Moderately fast)" with a chirpy avian theme (C1) [00:01] and "Tempo di valse (Waltz speed)" countermelody (W1) [00:54]. But these soon give way to an austere idea (A1) [01:24] that's explored. Then C1 and W1 are material for a lilting episode [03:26], followed by memories of A1 [05:21], which become increasingly anguished, thereby ending the movement despondently.

It sets the mood for the succeeding "Andante sostenuto (Slow and sustained)" one (SS) [D-2, T-2]. Moreover, this opens with a grave, A1-like thought (G1) [00:01], which is explored and gradually gives way to more hopeful passages [01:32] that are soon followed by doleful ones [02:51].

These bridge into a C1-W1-reminiscent segment [04:51], succeeded by an A1-tinged one [05:31] as well as a C1-W1-based, restive episode [07:27]. Then the movement's opening measures return [09:02] to close things much like they started.

The "Vivace (Spirited)" Scherzo [D-2, T-3] features a C1-W1-G1-derived, giddy ditty (GD) heard at the outset [00:01]. GD is bandied about in colorfully scored passages, that suddenly end with a forceful, unresolved chord.

Then there's an anticipatory pause and attacca "Allegro non troppo (Fast, but not too quickly)" marked fourth movement [D-2, T-4]. This begins with a forceful, A1-based idea (F1) [00:00] that's explored. Subsequently, F1 is followed by C1-W1-reminiscences [04:34] as well as thoughts of SS [05:21].

They invoke the return of F1 [08:57], which becomes increasingly forceful, only to briefly wane [09:30]. However, it then makes a commanding reappearance [10:23], thereby calling up a powerful, lengthy, SS-based coda [10:51] that ends the Symphony and album triumphantly.

These performances are by the Staatskapelle Weimar (StaWeimar), which is based some 150 miles southwest of Berlin. Under Finnish conductor Ari Rasilainen (b. 1959), Helvi's Symphony comes off quite well. It will leave listener's wanting to hear her other two efforts in this genre, which as of this writing aren't available on disc.

They're joined by German pianist Oliver Triendl (b. 1970) for the Concerto. He's a CLOFO regular, who's a champion of music by lesser-known composers (see 31 May 2022), and together they deliver a rousing account of it.

The recordings were made 24-27 April 2023 at the Orchesterprobensaal in Weimar. Both present suitably sized sonic images of these works in pleasant surroundings with Herr Triendl's Steinway D centered and well highlighted against the orchestra. The piano tone is superb with just the right amount of percussive bite, while the overall orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a rich midrange and clean, transient bass. Consequently, this release gets an "Audiophile" rating.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y240128)

Amazon Records International